Limbaugh returned to downplaying Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse as “hazing” and “an out-of-control fraternity prank”

In the wake of a remark by former Nixon and Ford administration defense secretary James R. Schlesinger that the Abu Ghraib prison was “kind of Animal House on the night shift” -- an apparent reference to a 1978 film about a fraternity -- radio host Rush Limbaugh expressed vindication and once again returned to dismissing the prisoner abuse as “hazing” and “an out-of-control fraternity prank.”

On the August 30 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh said, “The guy that looked into this claiming I got it right, it was hazing, it was an out-of-control fraternity prank, it was on the night shift. He's comparing it to Animal House.”

Schlesinger is chairman of the independent four-person commission that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld created in May to investigate the abuse allegations. At an August 24 news conference held to release the commission's report, Schlesinger said: “There was sadism on the night shift at Abu Ghraib, sadism that was certainly not authorized. It was kind of Animal House on the night shift.” The report described the abuse as “acts of brutality and purposeless sadism” that were “unacceptable even in wartime.” While Schlesinger did reference Animal House, he did so in the context of condemning the incidents at Abu Ghraib. In contrast, as Media Matters for America noted, Limbaugh has made a series of statements that have downplayed, dismissed, and even endorsed the Iraqi prisoner abuse. MMFA exposed these statements in May.

Limbaugh, referring to his use of the word “hazing” to describe the abuse, claimed on his August 30 program, “I never once backed away from it because I knew that's what this was.” Yet on May 11, he appeared to “back away” from those comments when he appeared to accuse MMFA of printing excerpts of his program “out of context.”

In May, MMFA created an online petition calling for Limbaugh's removal from taxpayer-funded American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS); nearly 40,000 people have signed the petition. On June 14, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling for fairness and balance on AFRTS. Limbaugh is presently the sole politically partisan host featured on the service's talk channel.